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2024 Draft watch: Players to watch for the Giants in the LA Bowl and Independence Bowl

Bowl season has begun

California v UCLA Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Good morning, New York Giants fans!

Happy Saturday and welcome to the 2023-2024 College Football Bowl Season. This year’s bowl season is packed full, with 42 games around the country between the Mytrle Beach Bowl at 11 a.m. today (Saturday, Dec. 16) and the National Championship at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 8.

We don’t have time to dive into every one of those bowl games, though each of the teams and players should be congratulated for their work this year. Instead, we’ll try to concentrate on the players, and games, that could have the most bearing on the New York Giants’ 2024 draft.

Today, that means the Starco Brands LA Bowl between Boise State and UCLA, and the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl between Texas Tech and Cal.

Starco Brands LA Bowl: Boise State vs. UCLA

ABC - 7:30 p.m.

Gabriel Murphy, edge, UCLA

redshirt junior

UCLA’s star edge defender Laiatu Latu has opted out of the bowl game after being named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of The Year. Latu has confirmed that he’s entering the draft and will likely be selected highly. That opens the door for Gabriel Murphy to take center stage and improve his draft stock.

Murphy appears somewhat stocky and is listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds. His arms will also likely come in on the short side as well. However, he has an explosive first step and does a good job of using his hands to keep his chest clean despite his lack of length. He appears to have a powerful lower body and good core strength to match a power aspect with his first-step quickness.

Murphy doesn’t have the kind of length or bend that teams typically look for in highly-drafted edge defenders. However, he could well be the type of player who’s drafted in the middle rounds and becomes a stalwart rotational player.

Other players to watch

  • J. Michael Sturdivant (WR, UCLA - redshirt sophomore)
  • Carson Steele (RB, UCLA - junior) * Steele might be unavailable due to injury
  • Darius Muasau (LB, UCLA - redshirt senior)

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl: Texas Tech vs. California

ESPN - 9:15 p.m.

Steve Linton, edge, Texas Tech

senior

Where Murphy is a stout, compact edge defender, Linton is of the “long and lean” variety. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, though he looks thicker than that on tape. He is a leggy, high-cut defender, which could be a problem for some teams. Linton is a senior, but also a new arrival at Texas Tech. He started his career as a former teammate of Tommy DeVito at Syracuse before transferring to Texas Tech prior to the start of the 2023 season.

Linton will likely start his career as a special teams player, but he flashes enough versatility to push for a role in a multiple defense. He lines up on both the left and right side of the defense, typically rushing from a two-point stance. Linton doesn’t exactly explode off the snap, but he has enough quickness to stress tackles, as well as the ability to drop into coverage as an off-ball linebacker.

DE Myles Cole has been the big name on the Texas Tech defense and has drawn comparisons to 2023 seventh overall pick (and former Red Raider) Tyree Wilson. However, Cole announced that he’s opting out of the bowl game, and like Gabriel, it will be interesting to see how Linton plays with the spotlight on him.

Other players to watch

  • Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (CB - Texas Tech)
  • CJ Baskerville (S/LB - Texas Tech)
  • Patrick McMorris (S - Cal)

Saturday’s full slate of games

While this post is just concentrating on a couple games and players, feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss today’s bowl games.

Myrtle Beach Bowl - Ohio vs. Georgia Southern
ESPN - 11 a.m.

Cricket Celebration Bowl - Florida A&M vs. Howard
ABC - noon

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Louisiana vs. Jacksonville State
ESPN - 2:15 p.m.

Isleta New Mexico Bowl - Fresno State vs. New Mexico State
ESPN - 5:45 p.m.

Starco Brands LA Bowl - Boise State vs. UCLA
ABC - 7:30 p.m.

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl - Texas Tech vs. California
ESPN - 9:30 p.m.